Solutions for school-based shootings rely on Community, not Cops
As more details emerge from the tragic events in Uvalde, Texas, the mythologies that undergird the ‘necessity’ of policing quickly unravel. Still, the immediate calls to “harden” schools, and increase the presence and role of police, are growing from state to state. Unfortunately, we have been down this road before and we know hardening schools does not prevent school shootings. It’s imperative that policymakers embrace the vision of students, parents, advocates, and educators moving us towards divesting from school policing and investing in building up school communities.
“As we learn more about the shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, we understand that school police officers were not able to prevent this tragedy,” said Andrew Hairston, the director of the Education Justice Project at Texas Appleseed and DSC member. “We urge policymakers to look to the past, from Columbine to Santa Fe, and adopt political courage in this moment. More investments in school policing, security, and surveillance will not address the fundamental issues that lead to mass violence on school campuses,” he continued. “Robust budget allocations for restorative practices and school-based mental health support services will.”
We stand firm in our commitment to education with dignity. Meaningful changes will only come through community-led efforts and organizing. The solutions to systemic violence are only going to come through a categorial redistribution of power and resources. 40% of the Uvalde city budget goes to the police. The United States spends about $115 billion annually on policing and $732 billion on the military, which is more than the next 10 highest-spending countries combined.
Despite that enormous figure and the fact that police receive millions more in equipment, police do not stop crime. Police do not prevent violence. Police do try to send 5 year olds to jail. Police do harass, surveil and otherwise criminalize everyday people. Students come to school to learn, not to traverse metal detectors, or militarized police who can arrest them or help deport them and their families. The true purpose of the police is best illustrated when we see the police exercising their force pinning down parents who are trying to save their children, rather than responding to the shooter himself who remained in the building for almost an hour.
We are once again at a crossroads. Policy-makers can continue to pour billions of dollars into school policing and invasive security measures and look the other way as Black, Latinx, Indigenous, LGBTQ, gender non-conforming students, and students with disabilities are criminalized, traumatized, and brutalized by school police as mass shootings continue. Or they can listen to their constituents and direct the necessary resources for equitably funding school communities to meet the social, emotional, and mental health needs of all students while preserving their rights and dignity.
We must be more than stirred, uneasy. We must offer more than thoughts and prayers. The desire we share to build strong communities can no longer be merely a noble aspiration, it must become our moral imperative.
The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) challenges the systemic problem of pushout in our nation’s schools and works to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline. As a national coalition, the Dignity in Schools Campaign builds power amongst parents, youth, organizers, advocates and educators to transform their own communities, support alternatives to a culture of zero-tolerance, punishment, criminalization and the dismantling of public schools, and fight racism and all forms of oppression.
Image above via Fibonacci Blue, flickr.com/people/44550450@N04, shared via Creative Commons.